Asus VivoBook K15 OLED review: Lights up the budget laptop segment, just in time for festive season

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October 01, 2021 7:54 PM

Meet the most affordable laptop with an OLED display.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewVivoBook K15 OLED starts at Rs 46,990. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The Asus VivoBook K15—K513—is the most affordable laptop with an OLED display in the Indian market today. How affordable, you ask? Well, it costs as low as Rs 46,990. Not only does the K15 ‘democratise’ next-gen tech for buyers, it should—hopefully—trigger other brands to start taking laptop screens on budget laptops more seriously. In that sense, more than the product itself, it’s what it stands for that really sets the K15 apart from anything else in the market today. That’s what makes it special.

Asus is launching a wide range of K15 models—both Intel and AMD-based—possibly in a bid to offer a little something for everybody, across different price points. In other words, the brand is also offering a lot of choice, something that’s not very common among budget laptops. More specifically, there are four SKUs.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED variants, India prices

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewAsus is also selling the K15 with the Ryzen 5 5500U processor. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
  • Intel Core i3-1115G4/8GB RAM/256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD/ Intel UHD Graphics: Rs 46,990
  • Intel Core i5- 1135G7/8GB RAM/ 1TB SATA 5400RPM 2.5″ HDD/256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD/ Intel Xe Graphics: Rs 65,990
  • Intel Core i5- 1135G7/16GB RAM/ 1TB SATA 5400RPM 2.5″ HDD/256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD/ Intel Xe Graphics: Rs 68,990
  • Intel Core i7- 1165G7/16GB RAM/512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD/ Intel Xe Graphics: Rs 81,990
  • AMD Ryzen 5 5500U/8GB RAM/ 1TB SATA 5400RPM 2.5″ HDD/256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD/ AMD Radeon Graphics: Rs 62,990

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED | What’s good

The K15’s most striking aspect is its display. Now, just because Asus has somehow managed to put an OLED panel in a budget laptop, doesn’t mean anything. If anything, there’s even more reason to be sceptical. But the good thing is, there’s not a lot to complain here. The panel that Asus is using in the K15 appears to be high-quality with ample saturation, especially deep inky blacks. It is large 15.6-inch 1080p, glossy and 16:9, so in a word, it’s a dream for content consumption. There is no HDR support though.

As for colour accuracy, while I personally would have liked a slightly more dialled down approach, most buyers would be happy with what’s on ‘display’ here. For what it’s worth, the panel supports 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut and it is Pantone validated—as also TÜV Rheinland Eye Care-certified—so can’t say Asus hasn’t gone the extra mile to give you a lot of bang for your buck in this department.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewThe K15’s most striking aspect is its display. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

But perhaps the thing that’s got me impressed the most is the all-round brightness. Unlike a lot of other laptops—including those that cost more from Asus itself—the K15 can get very bright which means it works well even when you’re out and about. The only limitation could be its size, it is after all, a 15-inch laptop. I am not too fond of the bezels around that beautiful screen, I think they could have been a little more polished but at least they’re not chunky. Asus has done well cutting down on any lose ends wherever it could have, resulting in a near 85% screen-to-body ratio.

Aside from those cheap and ‘plasticky’ bezels, the rest of the K15 is built quite well. Some might even say, it looks premium. Very minimal and understated. Not tacky. Asus is using a combination of aluminum alloy and plastic to ensure structural rigidity and good ergonomics. The whole thing weighs just under 2kg—it’s not too light, not too heavy either.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewThe keyboard is full-size. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The same level of attention has been given to the keyboard and connectivity ports. The keyboard is full-size, backlit, spill-resistant and includes both a numpad and fingerprint reader. Just to spice things up a little, Asus has given the ‘enter’ key a bold neon outline which should appeal to a lot of people, especially the young demographic. Connectivity ports are also plenty—including a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, two USB 2.0, HDMI 1.4, 3.5 mm combo audio jack and micro-SD card reader.

Core hardware is where things start to get a little more interesting. Rather than going all in on power, Asus is using a processor that’s made specifically for thin and light laptops. The model I have for review has an 11th Generation Intel Core i3-1115G4 (Tiger Lake-UP3) processor with integrated Intel UHD graphics. This is paired with 8GB DDR4-3200 SDRAM and 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewConnectivity ports are also plenty. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The i3-1115G4 is a 2 core, 4 thread processor built on a 10nm process node with a base clock speed of 3GHz and boost speeds of up to 4.1GHz. The chip consumes up to 28W of TDP. The Core i5 and i7 models offer more cores and will be—obviously—faster. Asus is also selling the K15 with the Ryzen 5 5500U processor (6 cores/12 threads) boasting of AMD’s latest Zen 2 microarchitecture which—in my opinion—is an excellent value addition to the line-up.

Regardless of the vendor, the hardware inside the K15 is designed from ground-up for efficiency and not so much for ground-breaking performance which sits perfectly well with the entry-level premise of this laptop. The laptop is good at single-core performance which is to say it can handle basic tasks including web browsing, mails, and video calls—it has a decent 720p webcam—well. It can also do some light photo and video editing, play few casual games here and there but multithreaded performance is expectedly not the focus here.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewIt supports Wi-Fi 6. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The K15 does not heat up/throttle unless you’re consciously making an effort to stress it though I would also like to point out that Asus has put a dedicated thermal management system inside the laptop which is a combination of an 8 mm heat pipe and an 87-blade ‘IceBlades’ fan that seems to have been custom-made for this form factor. The idea is to offer quieter sustained peak performance which should technically make more sense in the higher-end i5 and i7 models. Those models are also getting a feature called Asus Intelligent Performance Technology (AIPT) for improved thermals and efficiency at higher TDP by giving you an option to toggle between Whisper, Balanced and Performance modes.

Rounding off the package are a pair of loud and crisp stereo speakers tuned by Harman Kardon, noise-cancelling microphone and Wi-Fi 6.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED | What could have been better

The K15 clearly has a lot going for itself, but there are two areas where it could have been better. While I like the keyboard and its layout—which is pretty expansive—the keys themselves do not offer the best typing experience. They’re soft and mushy. The trackpad too leaves a lot to be desired. It is off-centre for one which means there’s a slight learning curve to using it. It is also very small, for such a large laptop. It isn’t very solid either neither in terms of feature set nor experience.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewThe K15 has Harman Kardon speakers. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Another area where the K15 leaves a lot to be desired is the battery life. The size itself – 42Wh – does not inspire a lot of confidence but I was expecting a little more because of the laptop’s energy efficient processor. Sadly, that’s not the case. I have been averaging between 4-5 hours on casual usage which is way off, even disappointing. The laptop supports 65W fast charging but only via the accompanying barrel charger.

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED | Verdict

Asus VivoBook K15 OLED, Asus VivoBook K15 OLED reviewThe K15 clearly has a lot going for itself. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Going by its spec sheet and Asus’s marketing pitch, you might think that the VivoBook K15 OLED is a one-trick pony, two tops, but after having used it extensively for over a week, I can say for sure that that’s not the case at all. Far from it.

The K15 OLED gets a lot of things right. It’s not perfect but its few shortcomings aren’t deal-breakers or anything. Though its big focus lies on making OLED screens more accessible, the K15 lights up the budget laptop segment with a mix of sturdy design and capable performance, all without breaking your bank.

Pros: Sturdy design, OLED display, Full-size keyboard, Plenty of ports, Good all-round performance

Cons: Mushy keys, Cramped trackpad, Battery life could be better

Also Read | Asus Chromebook Flip C214 review: Window of opportunity for students

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